Nagpur: Virat Kohli will go to South Africa without having lost a Test series as a captain after India took an unassailable 1-0 lead in the series with their joint-biggest Test win and Sri Lanka’s biggest defeat. As Kohli crept closer to most Test wins for India, his No. 1 matchwinner so far, R Ashwin, became the fastest man to 300 Test wickets.
It is not easy to keep turning up after you have wasted all the good fortune in one Test and then lost the second Test on the first day itself. Sri Lanka’s downward slide continued into the first session of the fourth day as they gift-wrapped two wickets to India, who now need two more to take an unassailable lead in the series.
Beginning the day 384 behind and needing to bat about five sessions to save the Test, Sri Lanka were expected to go down, but the point of interest was whether they would make India – already resting players and playing on pitches that reduce home advantage in order to prepare for South Africa – work hard for their wickets. Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews answered in the negative.
Before that, though, Dimuth Karunaratne encountered some tough luck with a freak short leg catch from M Vijay sending him back in the seventh over of the day. Having survived 61 balls, Thirimanne then scooped a wide half-volley straight to point. Mathews soon lobbed Ravindra Jadeja straight to mid-off to end his 32-ball innings. With no hope left, Dasun Shanaka threw his bat at everything, connecting well enough for a four and two sixes, but not well enough when he skied one to end his eight-ball 17. Once given a whiff, R Ashwin was too good for Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath, whom he sent back for ducks in the space of three balls.
Probably expecting more of the same capitulation, the first session was extended by 15 minutes to see if India could wrap the game up before lunch but Sri Lanka just about hung in to force a second session. Some of the capitulation was down to accurate and skillful bowling on a deteriorating surface, but India will be the first ones to say they have worked harder for wickets. The good bowling was evident in how Niroshan Dickwella was forced by Ishant Sharma to play at a length ball outside off in a spell that he extracted each-way reverse swing, playing with the scrambled minds of the batsmen.
Sri Lanka went into the break trailing by 260 runs. There was three-fold uncertainty at the start of the final session with two wickets standing. Would Ashwin get the one wicket he needed to reach 300? Would Sri Lanka score the 22 required to deny India their biggest Test win and the 32 required to avoid their biggest defeat? After having scored 61, and having put together 58 for the ninth wicket, Dinesh Chandimal picked out long leg perfectly when he flicked a leg-stump half-volley from Umesh Yadav. India’s lead now was 240. Only one run was added to the total when an Ashwin carrom ball kissed Lahiru Gamage’s off stump.
India 610 for 6 dec. (Kohli 213, Pujara 143, Vijay 128, Rohit 102*) beat Sri Lanka 205 (Chandimal 57, Karunaratne 51, Ashwin 4-67, Ishant 3-37, Jadeja 3-56) and 166 (Chandimal 61, Ashwin 4-63) by an innings and 239 runs